Former assistant coach Dave Carney, who took over the Tiger helm, inherits a team that went 14-7 last year and a skinny guard he expects to shoot .500 from the floor. "It's not a one-man team, and Richie knows that," Carney says. "Richie knows he has to score for us, but he mustn't approach it like he needs 35 a game. He just has such a great desire to excel—sometimes he gets down on himself when he doesn't make them all. One night at practice he missed a couple and got his head down. I asked him what he thought he'd shot that night. He had no idea. I told him 9 for 12. If I'd shot 9 for 12 when I played, I'd have done handsprings."
Every day on his way to the school gym, Rich passes a boxcar-sized trophy case. Inside is a picture of his dad, Indiana's "Mr. Basketball 1966." Being named Mr. Basketball is it in Indiana. Rich's dad was a shoo-in that year. In his high school career he out-scored Oscar Robertson by 770 points. In the picture in the trophy case, Rick wears his Mr. Basketball jersey, a smile and the trademark pointed forelock he favored—an inverted triangle that bisected his forehead. "The Cobra" or "the Point" they called that hairstyle. Hordes of Hoosier boys copied it.
Also in the trophy case are totems of the first great Lebanon star, the guy who led the 1943 team to the state finals, the guy whose school records Rick Mount broke. Fellow by the name of Pete Mount—Rick's dad, Rich's granddad.
Rich looks at his dad's picture through his own reflection. "I like that hair," he says. "It was probably kind of punk for back then."
Pete (Lebanon High class of '44), Rick (class of '66) and Rich (class of '89) are the most accomplished father-son-grandson combo in high school basketball history. All three scored 30 or more points in a game as freshmen, and that's just the first of the tripartite records they will hold by the time Rich graduates. In a hoops-crazy town in the hoops-craziest state in the union, they are hoops' First Family. They played together once, in a charity game two years ago. Rick scored 25, Rich scored 22 and Pete, who checked in just before the final buzzer, missed a hook shot. He was rusty. It was his first game in perhaps 20 years.
When Pete played during the war years, fans donated their gasoline ration coupons to the high school team. A ball used in the '43 state tourney was auctioned off for $119,000 in war bonds. After the state final game that year, Tiger fans tore the stairs off the buildings on Courthouse Square, built a bonfire and snake-danced through town, chanting "Lebanon Tigers, Lebanon Tigers!"—and the team had lost the game. Pete was, as the local scribes of the day put it, "as wily a pivoteer as cage fans have seen," "a leggy towhead whose sleepy demeanor belies his slyness" and "the greatest prep athlete to dribble 'n' shoot in modern times."
"We had good teams, we always filled that old gym," Pete says. "Back then, it wasn't so much the jump shot. We drove a lot. I shot a hook shot, sort of a George Mikan hook. One time I outscored the entire other team, and a little girl from school got it put in a comic book."
Pete skipped college and played a year of pro ball in the old NBL, the NBA's daddy—where he once found himself guarding Mikan and quickly switched off. Then he came home to Lebanon. The Mounts always do. He still has that old comic book, Magic Comics, February 1943, with Dagwood Bumstead on the cover and Pete Mount on an "incredible feats" page inside. Today his apartment is a shrine to his son, the living-legend Rocket. There are 24 pictures of Rick; two red, white and blue Rick Mount Autograph basketballs; and a Purdue Boilermaker toilet seat. There is also a Christmas tree ornament made by grandson Rich. There are 4,177 Tiger points in this room.
Rick the Rocket, 39, still in shape, plays a lot of tennis. He glides on the court, goes from baseline to net in three long strides, mashes overheads, flat serves down the middle and uses his spin serve to pretzel his opponent. A righthanded shooter who took up tennis after a separated right shoulder ended his basketball career, he plays tennis lefty. The difference between the great athlete and the rest of us is that he is an integrated circuit of muscle, mind and eye, and the rest of us are a mess of mixed connections.